Wrecker Radio Rocks 40 Years

In 1972, WWPT-FM — located on the Staples High School campus — became an official radio station.

Last weekend, WWPT snagged 8 honors — including 3 gold medals, and a bronze as the 3rd best high school station in the country — at the annual Drury Awards for Excellence ceremony in Chicago.

WWPT_logoA lot has happened in those 40-plus years. And this Saturday, WWPT celebrates over 4 decades as “Wrecker Radio” — providing music, live sports, talk shows, and public affairs.

From 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., 90.3 will play music, interview former staff members about their good times at the station, and air 2 live concerts.

But the station’s history goes back even further than the Nixon era. In 1959 Staples student Stu Soroka and his friends rigged a 100 megawatt milliwatt AM transmitter. They called it “The Radio Voice of Westport’s Youth.” Soroka went on to become a noted WOR-TV meteorologist.

In the summer of 1961, the original WWPT operated from a studio donated by the YMCA. A “news room” at the Town Crier headquarters around the corner was manned by a young Gordon Joseloff.

WWPT at beach

Teenagers listen — presumably to WWPT — at Compo Beach in 1961.

Just 100 megawatts — 1/10 of a watt — it was heard basically only at Compo Beach (at 1160 AM). Yet it also managed to reach Long Island. An article in the New York Times brought FCC attention, and a mid-summer shutdown.

Joseloff went on to become a Moscow correspondent for CBS News — and later, Westport’s 1st selectman.

In 1969, Keith Satter and other students involved with WMMM — Westport’s local station — started a 640 AM station at Staples. It was believed to be the 1st ever for a Connecticut high school. The broadcast could be heard throughout campus and, in the summer, at Compo Beach.

Their call letters were WSRB, for Staples Radio Broadcasting. (Or, perhaps, Sherman R. Betts, the Board of Ed business manager who signed the necessary documents.)

In the early ’70s Clif Mills, Carmine Moffa and former WICC chief engineer Ralph Winquist helped prepare an application for a 300-watt station at 90.3 FM. The antenna was located at the former Nike Site on Bayberry Lane, near the current Rolnick Observatory. The rest is broadcasting history.

In 2011, DJ Sixsmith, Eric Gallanty and Michael Nussbaum helped WWPT-FM win national acclaim. (Photo/Inklings)

In 2011, DJ Sixsmith, Eric Gallanty and Michael Nussbaum helped WWPT-FM win national acclaim. (Photo/Inklings)

Much went on in those days. The studios that moved from a former underground storage closet, to a legit place near the main office, to some very well-equipped digs today in the Media Lab.

As with any high school endeavor, there are countless stories to be told by those who enjoyed — and survived — those years. You can hear the less X-rated ones — along with plenty of great music — this Saturday at 90.3.

Or just click here.

Kudos to the Drury Award winners: 

  • 1st place: Hannah Foley and Arin Meyers, best newscast; Justin Gallanty, best public affairs program; Jim Honeycutt’s audio class and David Roth’s theater class, best radio drama.
  • 2nd place:  Jim Honeycutt’s audio class and David Roth’s theater class, 2nd best radio drama; Justin Gallanty and Aaron Hendel, 2nd best sports play by play; Adam Dulsky and Aaron Hendel, 2nd best sports play by play.
  • 3rd place: WWPT-FM, 3rd best station in the country (advisor, Mike Zito); Marla Friedson, 3rd best public affairs program.

John Drury Award

 

 

 

4 responses to “Wrecker Radio Rocks 40 Years

  1. Don Willmott

    WWPT made my fantasy of being a newscaster come true, even if my newscast was little more than a dramatic reading of the headlines from that afternoon’s Norwalk Hour. Very fond memories!

  2. Jeff Wieser

    A fun history of Wrecker Radio, but I enjoy the present! It remains my favorite listening post at all hours. I mean, where else do you hear – on a random afternoon – the long version of In-a-Gadda-Vida, among many other eclectic offerings. Keep up the good wok WWPT!

  3. David Schaffer

    WWPT is what gave me my high school “identity” in the late 1970s. Most of the people I still keep in touch with from Staples were on the stations with me. It was indeed a rare thing for a high school to have such a well-equipped station. My college station expanded during the time I was there but never exceeded 250 watts. WWPT was 300 and we could be heard in the neighboring towns as well as Long Island. Glad to see it’s still going and flourishing.

  4. Steve Stein

    Slight correction- 100 milliwatts= 1/10 of a watt.
    With 100 megawatts- If they had a donor for the other 99.999 megawatts- WWPT could be heard in the next galaxy in a few thousand years and deservedly so!!